FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Death and the Workplace: How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live

When Blind Alfred Reed wrote “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live” at the beginning of The Great Depression, he was singing about the hopelessness of poverty when there were no jobs available. Great advancements among the work force were made over the following decades, only to see them trickle away again over the last 40 years. Sure – the labor reports state very low levels of unemployment these days. But wages in real terms are fading.

But the most ignored concern among workers by media and politicians alike, is the abysmal state of workplace safety – the callous disregard for worker safety by employers. The stripping of OSHA funding and powers, including the absurd policy of “self-reporting” wherein company reporting of incidents replaces actual OSHA inspections. Restaurants receive far more scrutiny from the local health department than operations where heavy and dangerous equipment and chemicals are in daily use. And that has far more to do with the restaurant patrons’ safety than the actual safety of the restaurant workers.

When President Trump gave his speech last week in Springfield, MO asking for more corporate tax relief – the same “trickle down” economics that have failed American workers for the last thirty years – there was zero mention in the news reports about the abysmal safety record of Loren-Cook  the facility that Trump chose to give his (private) speech. And why should there be? Loren-Cook was exonerated in the death of one of their workers in 2009, weren’t they?

Well, no. Not really.

With about 1,000 employees, Loren-Cook is one of Springfield’s largest employers. Sales exceed $100 million per year.  But when it comes to spending some of that money to protect the safety of their workers, Loren-Cook not only can’t seem to find room in the budget – they show a callous indifference even after a worker dies.

On May 13, 2009, a flying projectile from a lathe where a protective guard had been removed killed a 59-year-old worker. Just two weeks earlier, another worker had reported that another flying projectile had barely missed him. You would think that after these incidents, surely, that Loren-Cook would reinstall the protective guards. Right?

Wrong.

From court records:

“After the May 2009 accident that killed a worker, at least one lathe operator reattached a guard to his small lathe. A Loren Cook supervisor questioned the operator about the guard and later removed it. This guard, and other guards that previously had been used on small lathes, were purportedly removed for inspection. The guards, however, could not be located when demanded by the Secretary [of Labor] in this matter. The Secretary moved for sanctions alleging spoliation of evidence.”

OSHA made a finding in the case and issued a fine of over a half-million dollars. From Department of Labor/OSHA records:

“Loren Cook Co. willfully allowed its employees to work on dangerous equipment without safeguarding the machinery and exposed workers to debris ejected while operating manual spinning lathes,” said acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA Jordan Barab. “It is imperative that employers take steps to eliminate hazards and provide a safe working environment.”

Seven instance-by-instance willful citations at $70,000 each are proposed for failing to guard seven manual spinning lathes, with a total proposed willful penalty of $490,000. OSHA issues a willful violation when an employer exhibits plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Three serious citations with penalties totaling $21,000 are proposed for a lack of adequate personal protective equipment for workers’ faces, extremities and hands. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which an employer knew or should have known.

The proposed fines total $511,000.”

End of story? Not quite. An Administrative Law Judge (U.S.) overturned the fine on a technicality. “According to the ALJ, the regulation at issue only required guards on the lathes to prevent debris or waste material from being ejected; it did not apply to guard against the ejection of the actual item being worked on, i.e., the ejection of the actual workpiece.” [court document] With years of experience in the manufacturing process, I can attest that sometimes companies remove these necessary guards for efficiency reasons. As in, the “waste material” can sometimes clog the machinery and cause down-time for cleaning – easier to sweep the shavings from the floor, even at the expense of the workers safety.

In 2014 the Labor Department appealed the ALJ decision to the United States Court of Appeals, Eighth District. The Court of Appeals upheld the technicality. The Department of Labor issues an annual list of OSHA cases against companies after workplace fatalities. The 2014 fiscal year contains 61 pages with an average of 15 cases per page. The 2015 report (last available in pdf file lists 81 pages – an increase of 30% in one year. How can a poor man stand such times and live? It’s a question still worth asking – and for more reasons than one.

More articles by:
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail